BDWA Summit – The “Unconference” on the future of the wine industry

BDWA Summit Participants

When brainstorming with our new sponsor Vinventions last summer, one of the bright ideas we had for the awards was to create a space to bring together both judges and winners for a meaningful conversation. About what? We weren’t sure… Where? again, a big TBC, but we could all see the value in convening experts in our industry to discuss the issues of the future with a particular focus on sustainability and innovation, two main areas Vinventions wanted to emphasise through its involvement in the awards.

In January, we sounded out all 14 judges and six accepted the invitation. Once the awards were published, all category and award winners also received the call and where budget allowed, this was then passed on to second place winners. The result was a very diverse group of people: writers, bloggers, a graphic designer, an academic, marketers, entrepreneurs, PR, and digital experts – arriving with completely different views of the present and future state of the wine industry.

Liège, Belgium, was the chosen destination, not far from the Vinventions European HQ. Our group toured the plant where their Nomacorc bio-based PlantCorcs are produced and saw firsthand how innovation can directly influence the market and disrupt the status quo. When Nomacorc (the predecessor to Vinventions) was created 20 years ago, the company changed the standard for “acceptable” levels of cork taint with TCA-free closures. The plant visit left us excited to impact future change and eager to get to work.

The following sessions involved discussing in small groups where the industry was in need of innovation, evolution and where as a group we might actually be “devolving” by repeating the same mistakes. Ideas ranged from the impending threat of climate change and the issue of succession for wine producers, to consumers looking for diversity and to “own” their opinions on wine, and to the struggle media has to generate revenue yet remain objective.  

Saturday morning’s session included a very animated and enthusiastic discussion on health and responsible consumption with comparisons to other industries and how they take responsibility for the effects they have. With Robert Joseph, winner of the BDWA Innovation Award, weighing in from Moscow, the discussion turned to the notion that every wine has a place in the industry and cross-segment criticism should be a thing of the past.

In the afternoon, small-group discussions then returned to debate what the future of the wine industry may look like. If we landed on a new planet and could construct the wine business from scratch what are the questions we could raise? What could be different? Would we adhere to the same norms, or would the whole concept look different? And indeed, these are the questions that we will be raising over the coming months in a series of posts. The aim of this “unconference” was in fact not to answer questions, but to discover questions that need to be asked, to involve the wider community and to provoke debate on standards which may in fact be limiting our growth as an industry. Join the discussion at BDWA Summit on Medium 

Who was there:

Damien Wilson (Judge), Elizabeth Smith (Judge, Winner Tourism Content 2017), Felicity Carter (Judge), Helena Nicklin (Judge, Winner Best Video 2017), Jonathan Lipsmeyer (Judge, Winner Best Investigative Writing 2017), Paul Mabray (Judge), Al Robertson (2nd Place, Best Visual Storytelling 2018), Alice Feiring (Winner Best Food & Wine Content 2018), Ilkka Siren (Winner Best Tourism Content 2018), Marcelo Copello (Winner Sustainability Award 2018), Meg Maker (Winner Best Editorial 2018), Rebecca Hopkins (Runner-up Vinventions’ Innovation Award), Faye Cardwell (BDWA), Ryan Opaz (Founder BDWA), Reka Haros (Project leader on behalf of Vinventions), Mel Cressman , Caroline Thomas and Vanessa Sferrazza (Vinventions)

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